National Clean Air Day 2018 is here at the end of June and it is giving us a great opportunity to encourage young people to consider air quality and particularly how STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) careers can be dynamic and exciting.

I was lucky enough to visit a local school in Worcester to talk to school children aged 4-9 years old as part of their ‘Environment Week’.  It was encouraging to see the excitement and engagement from these children, actively taking part in a short air quality quiz and also an experiment using cotton pads to demonstrate how ‘dirty’ the air can be close to roads.

During the morning class room talks, I was amazed at how bright and already interested the children were – some of them as young as 4 and 5, asking very switched-on questions. 

Teacher and children talking about air quality

Throughout the morning I talked to each class about what air pollution is and how we can improve it by making everyday changes such as: walking more; thinking about the journeys we make in the car and whether they are necessary and; using less electricity. 

The children really enjoyed finding out about how we can measure air pollution using simple methods such as diffusion tubes. They were also interested to find out the results of a simple wet cotton wool pad experiment, which I did to show how dirty the air was closer to the main road at the front of the School compared to the playground at the back of the School.

Following the Environment Week event, I have received some really excellent feedback from the children at the School from, “Honestly, I can’t imagine a world of dirty air”, to “In the future I will try to walk or have more people in the car” and a particular favourite, “It’s about smelly things and magic.”

It was really encouraging to receive this feedback from such young children, demonstrating that it is valuable to engage children of all ages in science related topics, which might ultimately result in them pursuing a STEM career path.

Initiatives like STEM talks are not just excellent opportunities for children to consider less-trodden career paths, but serve as a reminder of how rewarding and exciting this industry is.

This blog was written by Chloe Fellows, Principal Air Quality Consultant at WSP

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